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Porter, Fairfield (1907-1975)  
 
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Porter returned to the United States in May 1932, and became engaged to Anne Channing. Shortly after their engagement, Porter told Anne about his bisexuality and his love for Giardelli. As Anne Channing Porter recalled years later, "He just told me that that was how it was, and we both lived with it."

The couple was married on September 22, 1932, at Anne's family residence, Little Pond, in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Although the marriage was not without its difficulties, compounded, in part, by Porter's bisexuality, the two remained together for over forty years, and had five children.

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The Porters divided their time between their house in Southampton, New York, their summer home, designed by Porter's father, on the family-owned Great Spruce Head Island, off the coast of Maine, and a studio in New York City, where Porter mainly went alone to paint and to take part in the vibrant art scene.

Art and Art Criticism

Although he had been drawing and painting from an early age, Porter first gained recognition not as an artist, but as an art critic. During the 1950s and early 1960s, he wrote a regular art column for The Nation, as well as articles for more specialized periodicals such as Art News.

Several New York artists whose works Porter had championed in print and who had befriended him, such as Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, and Willem de Kooning, urged John Bernard Myers, director of the respected Tibor de Nagy Gallery, to exhibit Porter's paintings, and in 1952, at the age of forty-five, Porter had his first one-man show.

Porter's contribution to American art, as Carol Strickland noted in The New York Times, was "to fuse the intimate domestic interiors of the French painter Vuillard--comfortable, cozy parlor scenes--with the vigorous brush stroke and broad paint handling of de Kooning."

During his lifetime, however, Porter's work was not widely appreciated. His representational style and subjects--landscapes, still lifes, and portraits--were in sharp contrast to Abstract Expressionism (epitomized perhaps by the "drip" technique of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning's distorted Women series of paintings), which then dominated the New York art scene.

As Hilton Kramer, the respected cultural commentator and chief art critic for The New York Times, observed years later, "Many mistook [Porter] for an old-fashioned painter, kind of reactionary. His paintings of posh places seemed too bourgeois."

"Porter was quite misunderstood," Robert Dash, the artist, recalled. "Critics saw his paintings of people on a lawn or bike riding, and they saw banality in it. They didn't look at the paintings hard enough."

It was not until the last decade of his life that Porter began to receive wider recognition and respect for his art. His reputation as a significant artist continued to grow after his death. Interviewed for Newsweek in 1983, the leading poet and critic, John Ashbery argued "for a new assessment of Porter as perhaps the major American artist of [the twentieth century]."

Porter and James Schuyler

Through his friendship with Rivers and Freilicher, Porter met Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, the four core members of what has become known as the New York School of poetry.

Porter was intensely devoted to his friends and repeatedly included them in his portraits. He also wrote about them in his art essays, including the 1961 "Poets and Painters in Collaboration," one of the first serious assessments of the poets of the New York School.

His friendships even inspired Porter to take up poetry himself. For example, Porter celebrated his feelings about Ashbery in "The Young Man" (1952): "Young man with the narrow waist and thin / Arms, and heavy beautiful thighs of youth, / Whose green eyes under a foxy brush of / Fair hair regard me with insolent love."

It was with James Schuyler, however, that Porter maintained his closest friendship. The two men met in 1951 when Schuyler was 28 years old. Porter's interest in Schuyler, at first, appears to have been mainly platonic. Although there is little tangible evidence of their sexual relationship, in an interview with Porter's biographer, Anne Porter confirmed that at some point in her husband's friendship with Schuyler it briefly turned sexual.

Schuyler was manic-depressive and suffered from occasional psychotic fits. He was supported both emotionally and financially by the Porters, and after one particularly severe breakdown he went to live with the family, where he stayed, at both their home in Southampton and their summer house in Maine, from 1961 until about 1973.

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